Everybody these days needs the help of an attorney at one time or another, and having meaningful access to the courts is really a fundamental right under our constitution and the first amendment. So many Americans that really do require legal help often fail to seek it, and there are several explanations for this reluctance. The first reason could be the perceived high cost. The second may be that they don’t know where to find the right attorney, and the third might be just the general apathy or malaise to confront their legal issue. The American Bar Association recognizes over 80 areas of legal specialties and in many states attorneys aren’t even allowed to say that they specialize in a specific area. That can also be confusing and can deter the public from calling.
So having a legal plan, or a group legal plan overcomes a lot of these obstacles. They’re more popular these days and they’re available through an employer benefit plan. They’re also available through independent insurance providers. They eliminate many of these obstacles and they help the public get equal access to the legal system. Group legal plans work like medical insurance plans and the employee pays into the plan. If they ever need a lawyer for basic legal services—such as a prenup agreement, real estate closing, a will or even a bankruptcy, they can call on their plan administrator to get a referral to an attorney that’s within the insurance network. So even though the plans do not offer blanket coverage for all legal needs, at the very least, they offer protection for the minor or routine issues, which are just as important. They include adoption, divorce, juvenile court proceedings, property protection, real estate transactions, or traffic matters—you know, things like that.
The availability of legal hotlines also allows consultations for people over the phone and helps to understand their legal rights without even having to go to an office. So the public can view attorneys less like legal bulldogs and more like, you know, advocates. We’re problem solvers, but, you know, the legal plans, they have their critics. One, if you don’t use it, you’re paying for a benefit of no value to you. Two, you only get simple services. So the critics say that you’re not getting more important services such as business-matter issues, copyrights, appeals, tax preparation—well, that’s not going to usually be covered.
Neither is litigation if you’re bringing a lawsuit. So the plans will cover a defensive action, or if you’re being sued, to defend that, but you can’t bring an action under these programs. Another criticism is that you are dealing with less experienced attorneys on these plans and they’re usually not experienced with more challenging litigation. One other criticism is that when you’re paying for lower fees and you’re getting less experienced, you’re going to be settling sooner and the documents might be rushed. Finally, a lot of the critics will say that, well, you can get a lot of these programs through your homeowner’s insurance program or your auto insurance for bigger cases. So why would you pay for this plan? The last thing I would say is that just because an attorney is in a plan doesn’t mean that you can’t find a cost-effective attorney outside the plan.
There are a lot of attorneys outside the legal network who are willing to work with you on a payment plan or just a more competitive rate. And that’s really what the legal program provides. For me, the pros of a legal plan are that the public is getting better access to legal advice through hotlines and through newsletters. But the basic problems can pretty much be resolved by telephone and you’re getting basic legal documents. You’re not getting the most complicated documents, but you’ll get simple wills, short correspondences by phone.
If you need something more involved, you’ll have to go into an attorney’s office through the network, but then the network will give you a discount. So take advantage of that. So while the service might not be completely covered, it’s still made affordable through the group legal program.
My issue is that with the pros of a group legal plan is just access, but if you have a legal plan in your employee benefit package, you should really take a moment to see what the plan covers and you should consider what I just told you about the pros and cons of using attorneys in a legal plan. Still, the best way to find a competent attorney is to check both their professional peer reviews and their client reviews. Also, take some time to interview several attorneys before you hire, regardless if they’re in a group plan or not. Even if they’re not in a legal plan, you might find them more accommodating regarding legal fees and they might even be more effective. Remember, in my world, nothing of value is free, and nothing of value is deeply discounted.
I’m David Soble and I really appreciate you taking the time for watching. Take care.